I’m a third of the way into Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and I’ve loved every moment so far.
When I reviewed its 2015 TKTK successor, Ori and the Blind Forest, I took issue with the game’s repetitive enemy design, overly simplistic combat, and antiquated save system. Moon Studio’s second approach to these verticals proves to be a triumph, yielding a platformer with masterful level design and a new combat system that elevates Ori to irrefutable excellence.
I was pleased to see the same format return from the first game, but with an accelerated curve in unlocking all of Ori’s abilities. The Ori games are Metroid-inspired 2D platformers set in a beautiful water-coloured world of massive trees, cascading waterfalls, and all the eye-popping natural wonders one loves to see in a forest setting. Ori and the Will of the Wisps gains much from Moon’s second approach to character design. So far, during my six hours of play, I’ve run into all assortments of talking lemurs, toucans, and meerkat, all of whom offer sidequests and world lore. The main story—a rescue mission—is an afterthought to the excellent world on display. Even if I felt compelled to rushing to save my lost feathered friend, there’s so much to keep me exploring this beautiful, dense world.
The enemies are just as appealing to look at—a welcomed upgrade from the previous game. In Blind Forest, most enemies resembled gelatin blobs. Green blobs walked back and forth, pink blobs shot out stinger projectiles, purple blobs lobbed little purple snot blobs, etc. In Will of the Wisps, not only are enemies visually distinct, but their behaviours are varied so often as to keep me guessing how best to approach each combat scenario. In the span of an hour, I ran into three new enemy types, learned how to counter them, then found myself flailing against varied combinations of all three appearing in different scenarios. It was thrilling.
Fighting these enemies is a new joy to Ori. In Blind Forest, combat was all but automated, dedicated to a single button attack that required zero precision. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Ori can swing a sword, shoot arrows, throw a boomerang, and wail on her enemies with a massive hammer. These appear as “light” abilities, which are found and upgraded by exploring the world and bartering with merchants. These abilities work seamlessly with Ori’s unique platforming mechanics. Her most memorable, Bash, returns from the first game—an ability that lets her launch mid-jump from Bash nodes, projectiles, or enemies. This move also shoots that object in the opposite direction, meaning I can send enemy projectiles back at them, launch enemies into hazards, or chain a multitude of these in a wild series of combat maneuvers.
All of these systems coalesce to something invigorating. I remember one unscripted moment involving a bee-like enemy and Bash node hanging from a branch. I had juggled myself between the bee, it’s projectiles, and that Bash node for what felt like forever, scrambling to land a swipe of my sword or a shot from one of the bee’s projectiles, all while keeping myself aloft. It ended with a midair swing of my light hammer that squashed the sucker, but also left me without something to launch off! As I fell towards death, I said a little prayer, inhaled, and performed an air dodge towards what I could only hope was a platform just offscreen. I landed it, stood still for a moment, then laughed for a solid two minutes.
These moments of exhilaration are the result of a game benefiting from already excellent platforming mechanics paired with a great new combat system. Ori and the Will of the Wisps has already won me over, and I have a ton more game to play. Collectathons, painful platforming gauntlets, and a parade of cute forest critters await.